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lördag 20 december 2008

The plight of the Palestinian Arab refugees has to be resolved

It is always shocking when injustices take place and basic human rights are disregarded. When in addition huge sums of public money are spent on perpetuating human suffering, the situation becomes that much worse.

One of history’s most long-lasting and festering injustices is that of the Palestinian Arabs who became refugees in 1948.

75 % of Ottoman Palestine was set aside for the creation of an entirely new, previously non-existent Palestinian Arab state, Transjordan, later renamed Jordan. Jews were barred from living in this country. The remaining 25 % of the territory was to become the recreated Jewish homeland, Israel, 40 % of whose population was to consist of Arabs, both Muslims and Christians. However, this territorial allocation was halved in response to the Arab world’s demands. Israel was thus re-established in accordance with international law on the remaining 12.5 % of the territory. Nevertheless, in 1948 Israel was attacked by the Palestinian Arabs aided by the armies of five Arab nations.

Between 400,000 and 750,000 Arabs fled during the Palestinian Arab war on Israel. At the same time, 850,000 Jews were summarily exiled from their homes in Arab countries.
60 years later, the Arab refugees are still refugees, and so too are their children and grandchildren. Refugee status cannot be inherited, but the UN has acceded to the Arab world’s discriminatory demands and made an exception that applies solely to Palestinian Arabs. The Jewish refugees became citizens in the countries to which they fled.

This discrepancy stems from two main sources: the Arab countries that took in their kinfolk in the wake of the war they themselves started against the Jewish state have refused them basic human rights and have consistently treated them in a degrading and discriminatory way. Palestinian Arabs are banned from certain professions, they are not allowed to own land or property, they are denied citizenship in the countries in which they are born. The similarity to Nazi doctrine is remarkable.

The other explanation as to why Palestinian Arab refugees are still refugees is UNRWA.

UNRWA is a UN refugee organisation that was created for just one single group of refugees: the Palestinian Arabs including their descendants born in other countries and who have consequently not actually fled anywhere – the legal and logical definition of the term “refugee”.

UNHCR is a UN refugee organisation that was created for all the world’s refugees apart from the Palestinian Arabs. These refugees do not remain refugees – they become domiciled citizens in the countries that receive them.

UNRWA has 25,000 employees, almost exclusively Palestinian Arabs, to take care of 4.5 million Palestinian Arabs.

UNHCR has 6,300 employees to take care of 33 million refugees in more than 100 countries.
UNRWA costs the world’s taxpayers half a billion dollars a year to permanently maintain the refugee status of 4.5 million Palestinian Arab refugees.

UNHCR costs the world’s taxpayers 1 billion dollars annually to resolve the refugee status of 33 million refugees annually.

UNHCR’s mandate is to resolve refugee status. UNRWA’s mandate is to maintain refugee status.
UNRWA is a self-supporting world – it creates jobs for itself and these jobs are under threat if the organisation is forced to solve its problems.

To this must be added the fact that the Arab dictatorships exploit the insufferable conditions of the Palestinian Arabs as a live weapon against the Middle East’s sole democracy, Israel.

Democracy is a threat to totalitarian regimes and Palestinian Arab suffering is maintained as a means of diverting attention from the democratic threat.

Liberals and democrats have a moral obligation to deal with the core of the problem instead of continuing to support a disgrace that by UNRWA’s own definition expands for every year that goes by.

Enormous funds have been wasted for 60 years without the Palestinian Arabs’ refugee status being resolved. As liberals and democrats we ought to be demanding a solution to the permanent refugee status of the Palestinian Arabs. All other refugees have been settled by the UNHCR during this same period, at a mere fraction of the cost per person.

Failure to demand an immediate end to the Palestinian Arabs’ permanent UNRWA refugee status is to collaborate in their discrimination – something that is unthinkable for anyone with a firm belief in the equality of all human life.

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upplagd av Ilya Meyer